Homeless people ‘decontaminated’ after flooding causes shelter bathrooms to overflow

SAN DIEGO - More than 200 homeless people remained at SDCCU stadium Friday morning after heavy rain and flooding prompted evacuations from a tented shelter in the East Village, authorities said.

The evacuations began around 9:30 p.m. Thursday because of flooding at the bridge shelter run by the Alpha Project at South 16th Street and Newton Avenue, according to San Diego police.

Of the Alpha Project's 324 clients -- the shelter's capacity -- 230 people were transported by Metropolitan Transit System buses to a temporary shelter at SDCCU stadium in Mission Valley.  The others found alternate places to stay.

A flash flood warning expired at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and downtown San Diego received 2.27 inches of rain between 8 p.m. Tuesday and 8 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

"It was scary," said Alpha Project President Bob McElroy. "We're a tent in the middle of the street."

The heavy rain brought flooding that caused damage to the bridge shelter as well as the bathroom facilities in the structure, city spokesman Jose Ysea said.

"(The flooding) caused sewage to seep and because of that we wanted to make sure the people being brought (to SDCCU stadium) would have an opportunity to clean up," Ysea said.

A decontamination area was set up and the American Red Cross was called in to provide sanitary clothing, cots, blankets and other health services to the shelter residents, who were housed on two club levels of the stadium, Ysea said.

The American Red Cross is providing supplies to evacuees.

"Probably everything is lost. Like they said, we're underwater. My clothes that I have are gone so the only thing I have right now is what I have on right now," said Will Duenz, who was staying at the shelter.

Shelter officials assessed the damage to the East Village bridge shelter Friday morning and said Hazmat crews were cleaning the facility. Anything that touched the contaminated water had to be thrown out, McElroy said.

"You pretty much lost everything," resident Morris Jackson told FOX 5. "I was on the top bunk and I still lost all of my clothes.

"We're really in desperate need of socks, pants, shirts, jackets -- anything that is warm," McElroy said.

The emergency shelter will remain in place at SDCCU stadium until the evacuees are allowed to return to the permanent shelter, and it could take five to seven days for the shelter to be decontaminated, officials said.

Donations can be dropped off at SDCCU stadium, Gate C.

"We'll recover," McElroy said. "It's a good day. Every day is a good day."